A few pictures from the week of travel



House of Light



whalers of the moon

so...I haven't posted a blog for a while. I have been quite behind schedule. On the plus side, Zach and I are almost finished with our design project, and I'm not too far from finishing my other stuff for the quarter. Today, after working all afternoon, we went to see Star Trek in the theater in Shinjuku. It was definitely an awesome movie. After that we went to Shibuya and went to a restaurant that serves whale. We had several different dishes including smoked whale and whale tongue cooked with soy sauce. The best though was the raw whale heart. You can really taste the strength in the flesh of an enemy's heart. Once I get the pictures from Zach, I will post them to the blog.



Today, we headed up to Sendai. On the way we stopped at the Sumika Projects. My favorite by far was the house by Taira Nishizawa. His design is a thick, rectangular roof floating on thin round pilings. Because the columns are sunk about 20 feet into the ground, no lateral bracing is needed, and a conventional foundation isnt neccessary. The thick roof is a layered ordeal starting with an outer of corrugated plastic, then structure, then heavier structure, then the lightest structure, then vertical fins that mediate the light even more. In the top layer, there are several large voids, which are glazed, but allow unfiltered light into the space. These voids allow light to move from the bathroom to the bedroom then to the kitchen and living spaces throughout the day. The building has radiant heat in the floor, and during the summer well water is run through the pipes to cool the floor. The entire building can be opened up. It is awesome. We also saw the three other projects which were definitely cool. At Sendai we saw an Abe building, then the mediateque. The mediateque was obviously awesome, but hard to photograph because the area is so dense. We looked for and eventually found the Abe restaurant with the perforated steel interior, but it was closed. Apparently its less of a restaurant and more of a private club type place as we were told it is rarely open and usually only by reservation. Unfortunately it was too dark to even take pictures of. Photos of the mediateque and other Sumika Projects to follow at a later date.


Farewell to Tokyo...for a week

Tomorrow morning(monday) we leave for Sendai. On the way we are stopping to see a set of four buildings designed by four of the top designers in the area. They were commissioned by a gas company if i remember correctly. After that we continue on the train up to Sendai to check out the Sendai Mediateque as well as a handful of Hitoshi Abe projects. After that we continue travelling until Sunday night although I don't recall where to right now. Hopefully blogs will continue but I can't promise anything.



Sumo was pretty cool. Obviously, the wrestlers were huge. They were insanely powerful and on several occasions people in the crowd were landed on by one or two wrestlers flying out of the ring.

The Presentation of the Stable. The throwing of the salt.



We had monday and tuesday off because we had to be out of the youth center for those days. Don gave us a hotel budget and helped us make reservations for the couple nights we had to be gone. Wanting to make the most of it, we went to Yokohama. It is only a little bit from Tokyo on the JR. Pasmo worked there too, which was awesome. We decided to stay in a capsule hotel since they don't really exist outside of Japan. Don found one online called the SKYspa. It is located on the 14th and 15th floors of a department store building right next to the Yokohama station. If you want to see pictures, you have to go to the website, since you can't really take photos there.


The hotel has a spa with about 5 different baths and a few different saunas. I spent a good portion of my time there, as the tubs and saunas looked out onto the cityscape below, and were perfect for relaxing. The capsules themselves were surprisingly large, and had tv and radio inside. Unfortunately, the front screen that could be closed to block light and views did not block sound, and there were a few bears in there snoring it up at night. We went to the Yokohama terminal, and it was leagues better than last time in the typhoon. The building really is amazing, and despite the angular nature of the project, the craft is practically flawless. We also saw some projects by a guy that we will get to meet later on the trip, and a housing project that was enormous. The housing project had some courtyard type spaces that looked like hangars from star wars. Although it didn't seem like a very nice place to live, it was cool to see just for the scale and intensity of it. As with the Kyoto International Conference Center, which we saw in Northern Kyoto, it is amazing to see a project like this actually built, which seems to have happened in Japan a lot more than anywhere else. We saw a gymnasium and a small university campus by Maki. We ate some good Chinese food in the Chinatown and had some good conveyor belt sushi under our hotel.



I am in Tokyo. For the first few days we are staying in yet another Toyoko Inn. Unfortunately, my room looks directly into another room, and offers no ventilation. I feel like I am cooking in here especially with my computer. The room is small, like all Toyoko Inn rooms, but offers plenty of room considering it is just me in here. On tuesday we move to the olympic housing building where we will be staing for the duration of Tokyo. We walked around and saw the buildings I saw last time like Prada, Tod's, Louis Vuitton, and the Audi tower. We also walked to the Olympic stadium by Kenzo Tange. It was awesome. There was a Namie Amuro concert there and we tried to get in but it was sold out. I hope I can get tickets for Ayumi next weekend. Today we went to the Kyoto Forum building. It was also pretty cool. I have had some wonderful ramen here. One place has broth as thick as a thinner turkey gravy. It was pretty good, but my favorite in Tokyo thus far has to be the place with the garlic cloves on the tables. The ramen is already good, with a nice tea boiled egg and a big piece of fatty pork on top. Then you grab the garlic crusher and as many cloves of garlic as you want and pump it into the ramen. The first time I just used one clove, then decided that the next time I would double it. The next time I used 2, but next time I plan to use 4. I hope a stormdrain isn't in my near future after 4 cloves, but it's a risk I'm willing to take for awesome ramen. Earlier, we ate at a revolving sushi place where you sit around the bar and plate after plate of sushi goes around the conveyor belt. I had about ten plates or twenty pieces of sushi. It ended up being only about 12 bucks. Not a bad meal at all. About 6 pieces of hamachi and salmon. mmmm. Pictures to come after I catch up on my travel journal...


Himeji was pretty cool. It is home to one of the castles that didn't get burnt down during the bombings of Japan. It was definitely built to be defended, with weapons racks claiming any wall space not used for arrow slits. The plaster of the castle was well stained, and offered a wonderful texture of age and use. After seeing the castle, we ventured over to the city museum of literature which was composed of two buildings by Tadao Ando. Again, as with many Ando projects, circulation was abundant and powerful. The buildings weren't his greatest works but were interesting. We also saw a Shuhei Endo project. It was a small office building, and apparently not one of his more famous works. It was a very cool building. At about 6 we boarded a shinkansen for Kyoto, where we had an hour to pack our stuff and get back on another shinkansen for Tokyo. The hour was actually plenty of time, even considering that I had to break down my bike and pack it as well as repacking my other bags.


Okayama and Naoshima

After Miyajima we went to Okayama. We saw one of the most famous gardens in Japan. Unfortunately, that same day, about 300 schoolkids saw it too. The garden was awesome. The schoolkids were not. Although they weren't too bad, noise and chaos filled the open space of the garden. We also saw a bulding done by the architect who designed the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was from about a decade after the Hiroshima building. We also walked along a canal and saw a western style old school japanese house and a really cool pottery place. The pottery was unique to the area using clay dug from the area. Each piece is unique based on the clay used. No glazing is applied to the pottery. Color and texture variations come from the mineral and chemical differences in each piece of clay as well as the position in the kiln when fired.

After Okayama, we went to Naoshima. Naoshima is a small island, where Tadao Ando has multiple works. We stayed at the Benesse House in the Oval, which is designed by Tadao Ando. We also went to the ChuChi Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando with input from James Turrell and another artist whos works make up the museum. There is also a room housing several Monets. The James Turrell installations were amazing. He had an open sky room, a small corner light installation, and a room that you could enter called the open field. The room was insane. It was by far the coolest art installation I have ever experienced. First you wait in a small room with a large granite stairset leading up toward one wall. On the wall, there appears to be a rectangular screen, but you soon realize it isnt a screen. It is an opening. The walls taper to a very thin edge aroung the opening. It is hard to tell that it is even there. The room is bathed in light from a light bar running over the opening and down both sides around it. The light is blue. The whole experience is nuts. It was the best. All the art was pretty cool. It didn't compete with the architecture, which was also really cool. It was probably the best museum I have visited.
After Naoshima, we caught the ferry back to the mainland and a couple trains to Himeji where we will spend our last day before heading to Tokyo tomorrow.



We went to Miyajima after Hiroshima. It is where the famous tori gate out in the water is located. When the tide is out you can walk out under it on the sand. When the tide is in, the gate and the shrine stands on piers in the water. We went out and took some cool night pictures. Later, we got in the Japanese bath. I felt bad because when we went to get in Don was there. Since you have to be naked in the bath, I'm pretty sure Don left because he couldn't be there with students. It sucks our society has become so letigious. The bath was really nice though. It was quite large, and looked out onto a garden. The next morning we got up and had breakfast. Then we headed off to see the shrine and climb the mountain. It was only about 3 km walk to the top, but it was mostly stairs and pretty steep. The view was pretty nice, and we even saw a submarine in the water below. At the top, there were monkeys. (I am fully aware of what it looks like the monkey in the background is doing to the monkey in the foreground)

There weren't very many but they were pretty cool. Before we had to catch the ferry, we went to the hall of 1,000 tatamis. It had no tatamis and wasn't even large enough to hold 1,000. We also went to a small woodworkers shop. I got a really cool tea canister made from a single piece of wood. I of course got the simplest one they had. I wish I could have gotten one out of one of the super exotic woods but those were like 400+. Some of the stuff in the shop was really pretty. I might have to hit the lathe when I get home.


Sorry I missed a couple days. It was just too lazy the last couple days and with poor internet connection so I decided to do it later.

Hiroshima was sad as expected. It was last time too. Although the sadness passed quickly and was replaced with shame and disbelief at the statements of other young Americans. Some people it seems can't make connections between seeing a memorial in Hiroshima and reading the somewhat biased version of accounts and the context of what actually happened. Obviously, it was a horrible event, but weighed against the alternatives I can't say I would have done otherwise. I don't want to stage a debate on here so I will continue. The park was just like last time and the museum was too. The entry into the exhibits about the bomb victims is still poorly done and in fairly poor taste in my opinion. That served to turn me off to most of the rest. I got a few good pictures. There was a guy in the park right when we left that was sharing his ice cream with his cat. I also went in the same pet shop that we went in two years ago where Carrie saw a french bulldog eat its own poop. And the okonomi yaki we had for dinner was awesome.


Kobe and Osaka

Today we went to Kobe to the Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum designed by Tadao Ando. It was a really nice building. Surprisingly, the detailing was still very nice even though the scale of this project is much larger than many of his other works that we have seen. His use of circulation is always very interesting, and I enjoyed some of it creating a strong conenction with the building.
After that, we went to Osaka to see the church of light. I had been there before but it is a nice little project.
When we got out of the gates at the train station in Osaka, an old man on crutches came up to me and asked how I was. I said genki. He then told me I was a very handsome boy. I didn't know what to say. Thinking he was just excited to see some Americans and not wanting to make a scene as more of the class started to pay attention, I just said thanks. After he blew me a couple kisses I managed to sweep around to the other side of the group. After he got his ticket, he made another pass, first telling sig that she was cute then coming back to me. With a big toothless smile he once again began blowing kisses and then asked me to marry him several times. I won't lie. This was one of the few times when I just had nothing to say. I was shocked. After that, the group continued on to the Church of Light.